The Number is …

16 Jun

146!!! That’s 146!!! Anyone?  Yes, we have a winner!

A couple of days ago, I promised to post more photos that were taken during our stay in the Susquehanna valley.  Alas, something came up that kept me from following through.

Tuesday morning, my left leg started to ache.  Thinking it might be a circulatory issue, I took Frank for a walk.  We went up the north side of the park, past the swimming hole, walked along the back border and then back down to our “street”.  It wasn’t a long walk … took about 20 minutes or so … but I figured it was long enough to get my blood flowing.  In the past, I’ve occasionally had problems with edema in my legs but it hasn’t really been an issue of late, despite my being fat.

Unfortunately, the walk didn’t help.  The lower part of my leg, from about mid-calf on down, started to redden and became very sensitive to the touch.  My first thought was, “Shit!  I’m  getting shingles again!”  I suffered from shingles about six years ago, to the point that I was left with long-term neuropathy in the last two fingers and the heel of my left hand!

If you’ve experienced shingles, you know what the pain is like.  I couldn’t even lightly rub a finger across the back of my leg without feeling like it was on fire.  It wasn’t the type of heat you have from an artery blockage and the swelling wasn’t like an edema.  I figured it had to be shingles.  The only issue was that it was a day before my Social Security deposit was to hit the bank account.  I run pretty thin on funds (about the only “thin” thing to which I can lay claim) and figured that I’d find a low-cost clinic to visit the next day, when I’d have the funds to pay for the visit.  I then had a totally sleepless Tuesday night.  It was agony each and every time I moved my leg even the slightest bit.  And if I happened to let a tooth of the zipper on the side of sleeping bag hit my leg? Oh my God … I’m surprised folks in the neighboring RVs didn’t wonder if someone was being murdered in that little “thing” parked at the end of Beach Road!

By Wednesday morning, I sort of figured out that it wasn’t shingles.  The blisters I thought were forming on Tuesday didn’t develop any further.  At that point, I thought it might be a spider bite or something.  All I knew for certain was that putting any weight on the leg resulted in a “please let me pass out so I don’t experience any more of this” pain.

Anyhow, I had found a clinic that opened at 5pm in a local pharmacy.  Not knowing how long it would take, I also found a dog sitter that would be able to watch Frank in her home. Fearing that it might be something more than what the clinic could address, I made sure that she’d be able to keep Frank overnight if it came to that.  Jane said that wouldn’t be an issue.

Sure enough, the clinic took one look at me and said, “We can’t help you here. You need to go to the hospital for this.” So after calling Jane to let her know that she was going to have an overnight guest, I drove a few miles up the Garden State Parkway to the local ER.

Everyone at the ER was great.  The treatment I received was exceptional. The only thing I’ll mention is that I questioned a couple of the tests they wanted to administer.  I’m in a unique situation with my insurance: it’s a Texas-based policy and offers limited ER coverage when I’m out of state. I’m also responsible for the first $3,000 of expenses, including prescriptions … after that, my bills are covered 100% (to the extent the costs are “approved”).

The two tests were an ultrasound, to verify whether I might have a clot, and a chest x-ray because of swelling /edema in the leg.  Before discovering that either test was ordered, the ER doc said (rather emphatically) that I was experiencing a severe tissue infection, that I would be given a strong antibiotic and some Lasix via IV and would then be sent home with a prescription. The instructions were that I should return if the pain and redness didn’t decrease substantially within the next 24 hours after continuing the antibiotics at home.  Based on that, I asked if those tests were absolutely necessary at this stage of the game … that if in fact I had to return, that I’d prefer waiting until then to go to the next step.  What’s funny to me is that no one came back to acknowledge my question – they simply released me without administering those tests.  But all of that is an aside.  I won’t get into a discussion about how absurd I think the U.S. medical delivery system is.  There isn’t enough ether in the Internet for me to go down that path!

The big surprise came when the doc returned to let me know I was being released.  “Did you know you were diabetic?” he asked.  I told him,”No, I’m not diabetic!”, that I had had a full blood workup less than three months earlier and the results had come back negative for cholesterol and diabetes. “Well, that’s not what your test results show today.  You’re diabetic, my friend!”

I looked at the blood sugar level and sure as hell, it read “146”.  That same value was about 110 back at the end of March!  My first thought was, “Damn … I can’t use that joke anymore!”  When asked if I have a history of diabetes, my typical response at a first-time doctor visit has been, “No diabetes. No cholesterol problem.  I’m just fat!”

I asked the nurse if I could have a copy of the test results and she cheerfully provided them.  I told her that the only big change in my diet was that since early April, I’ve been enjoying an almost daily gin and tonic (what I didn’t tell her was that my gin and tonics are about 50% gin … and they’re served in a really big glass).  She said, “Alcohol is very high in sugar, so yes, it’s possible that that change could produce a higher blood sugar count.”  Then the she said something that really took me off-guard:  “Diabetes is something you need to get control of – simple infections can become a lot worse.  You don’t want to lose that foot!

Huh?  What?  Lose a foot?!?!?!?!?  Nahhhh, I didn’t hear that right.  Lose a FOOT???????

Unfortunately, it happens to a lot of diabetics that don’t get control of their disease. Diabetes makes infections like the one you’re dealing with a lot harder to take care of and sometimes amputation is the end result!” Geezus, I was contemplating having to lose weight, but I didn’t think that it would happen via a surgeon’s knife!  That threw me for a loop … I’d be a liar if I said anything different.

Now I’ve had an on-again, off-again weight problem most of my life.  I’ve addressed it at times, other times … like most of the last five years, for example, I’ve ignored it.  No problem is too big that it can’t be ignored or procrastinated upon. It’s what I call the “fuckits”.  About eight years ago, I undertook a concerted effort to address my weight. I went to Weight Watchers (which I think is a fantastic regimen) and lost 160 lbs over an 18 month period!  Then certain things happened in my life and as quickly as I decided to go to meetings, I said, “fuckit!” … and stopped .  I didn’t just stop meetings – I stopped giving a shit about what I ate.  And to no surprise, proceeded to gain back about three-quarters of what I had lost. What does it matter? Who cares, anyhow?  Fuckit!  There’s that “Anti-Jeff” I mentioned in the George Foreman post, talking full in my ear. He’s been around quite a while.

Food has always been my crutch.  More than anything else, I’ve gone to food as a way to deal with depression and anxiety … and anger.  It’s the paradox of feeling “in control,” i.e “No one is going to tell me what I can or cannot eat!  I’m going to do what I want!” Of course, the reality is that when you have an addiction to food, the last thing you recognize is that you’re not in control – your addiction has control over you!

As I’ve mentioned though, I’ve been trying to get a handle on eating better over the past month, the result of the work I’ve done on reaching a certain level of peace, happiness, and acceptance of myself.  The problems (aside from the whole thing surrounding the George Foreman grill) have primarily been convenience.  Even with the galley and the new camp table, the vagabond lifestyle isn’t as easy as having a roomy kitchen for food prep, cooking, clean-up and the like.  At least that’s been my excuse.  But that excuse pales in comparison to, “You don’t want to lose that foot!”

Nevertheless, I really hate having to face reality!  I lamented to my buddy Mike in Houston that it would have been much easier if this had happened a year ago. I’d have simply dropped Frank off with the caretaker I’ve designated if something were to happen to me … I’d have driven west to the Pacific … and would have plunged the car over a cliff. With me in it!  Problem solved!

But I can’t do that now because I’ve been having a fair amount of fun over the past few months!  I have a reason not to go cliff-diving: I’m enjoying life and want to live! Damn it!

I’ve not been eating balanced, something I confessed to Mike.  I’ve gotten a pretty decent handle on carbs, which have always been my downfall.  Sure, I’ll buy a bag of Doritos every now and then, but no more than once a month (he says as he glances at the half-eaten bag sitting on the storage bin below him … I guess I won’t get to count “salsa” as a vegetable anymore).  I’ll also have an occasional treat: my go-to candy is Red Vines, or Twizzlers, those red licorice things.  I love those.  But my meals have been pretty much 100% protein: I’ll eat a pound of ground beef at a sitting. A couple of big chicken breasts, or two steaks. No vegetables.  No side dishes.  Just meat.

I half-joked with him that my arrangement doesn’t allow for storing a lot of veggies.  I’ve had them go bad on me after only a few days.  “What am I supposed to do … go shopping every day?”  And as soon as I said that, I knew what the response was going to be:  “Well, what else do you have to do?  I mean, it’s not like you don’t have plenty of time on your hands.  You don’t have anything you’re gonna be kept from, right?” (Well, Mike was a bit more tactful than what I was expecting.  I figgered the reply was gonna be, “What kind of cheese do you want with that whine???”)   :o)

Right! Touché! You got me!  One more pseudo-argument against taking better care of myself just went down the drain.

So, it is what it is.  This afternoon, I went to the grocery and bought the fixings for a big crock pot of stew … complete with green beans, peas, stewed tomatoes, mushrooms, carrots and pearl onions.  The only thing missing from my standard recipe are the potatoes. Not that I didn’t buy them – I just couldn’t fit any in the crock pot once everything else was added! I’ve just finished my first bowl while prepping this post and it was delicious!

So we’ll see how this goes.  The Weight Watcher stuff – the point values, my daily points allotment – all of that was committed to memory years ago.  (Funny … I can remember that stuff … and baseball stats … and dialogue from over 793 movies.  Just don’t ask me what color shirt I wore yesterday.)  I’ll just focus on eating more healthy under that regimen and won’t bother at this point with the weekly weigh-ins or going to the meetings that followed.  The key will be whether I’m committed or not.  We’ll see. Oh yeah – “You don’t want to lose that foot!”  Okay, I guess commitment is to be assumed at this point.

I almost forgot to mention – Frank.  I picked him up early this morning.  When I spoke with Jane on the way to the ER, she said that he was anxious. He had been panting ever since I left for the clinic and wasn’t really settling down yet.  I realized that last night was the first that he and I have spent apart since we met!  Anyhow, he started howling the minute I pulled up. I could hear him as I got out of the car.  And when he came around the corner from a back room, he literally ran and leapt into my arms, nearly knocking my walking stick out of my hand and sending me reeling!

When I got him back in the car and got his leash off, he refused to get out of my face and stop licking me! I finally managed to get him to sit in the passenger seat, but Frank wasn’t done.  All the way down the driveway and for the next half mile after that, he sat there howling at me.  Browel, browel, browel, browel, browel … that beagle bay, letting me know how pissed he was that I just up and left him last night.  He was alone when the rain started at about 2am.  I finally talked him down, after which he laid down on the seat with a bit “Pffffft” of air escaping through his jowls.

I don’t have to do grocery shopping tomorrow. I’ve made enough stew for a few days.  I’ve made it before on this journey, but this time, I’ll be able to reheat it in the electric skillet.  I have to say, cold stew that’s congealed while sitting amongst the ice in my cooler does not make for appetizing leftovers!  I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s lunch, that’s for sure!  Almost as much as the now “once a week” gin and tonic I’ll have on Saturday evening!  Looks like I’ll have to be more diligent in getting my daily fruit allowance from something other than a lime!

I’ll work on posting the remainder of the photos tomorrow afternoon.  Thanks for bearing with me while I get my act together!  :o)

It’s not a pretty foot.  In all honesty, it’s a pretty ugly foot, when you get right down to it!  But it’s mine.  I’d like to keep it, thank you very much!




Posted by on June 16, 2016 in Musings


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “The Number is …

  1. Donna

    June 16, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Jeff, after reading all this, it occurred to me that you’re not that far from where I live (an hour or so). If you get in a bind with Frank, I’m here, I can take Frank if you’re laid up for any length of time, so don’t worry. And, if you need help, I’m here, let me know, okay? My brother Mike and my nephew Matt are staying with me at the moment, but feel free to come on by. And, yeah, bud, you don’t want to lose a foot….happened to my mother’s best friend, alcohol, diabetes…..bad combination. Keep up the good work, see you soon. 🙂 Donna


    • ustabe

      June 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks very much for the offer. I’ll be up in Toms River a week from today. I owe you a lunch! :o)



    June 20, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Diabetes is awful and u don’t want to lose that foot–and remember also–dogs can get diabetes,so u and Frank can do weight watchers together and stay healthy and happy! Cheers



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